Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cops gun down cougar on N. Side

City dwellers, consider this a confirmation: It is a jungle out there.

And residents of the North Side's Roscoe Village neighborhood found out firsthand Monday when a cougar -- or mountain lion, as authorities alternately referred to it -- pawed around their neighborhood and authorities shot and killed it.

Residents living on Hamilton and neighboring Hoyne, just north of Roscoe, heard a series of gunshots coming from the alley about 6 p.m. When it was over, the animal, weighing about 150 pounds, was dead on a cement parking pad behind one of the homes on Hamilton.

"I was home and sitting in my front room and I heard what I thought were firecrackers," said James Reynolds, 45, who lives in 3400 block of North Hamilton and saw much of it unfold.

He went to his rear deck and saw -- there in his alley -- the animal and was shocked.

"I thought, 'Is that a lion?' "

The animal made a feeble attempt to climb the fence to his backyard as well as the fence to his neighbor's yard.

"He really couldn't jump, so I think he was already injured," Reynolds said. He said he called out to officers to let them know that the animal was just yards from his home.

"I told them 'Hey guys, he's right there!' " -- and officers told him to go back inside.

After a series of shots, the animal lay motionless, witnesses say. By early evening, only a small splatter of what appeared to be blood served as evidence of the cat for curious neighbors who were still getting home from work when everything happened.

"This is the craziest thing I've ever seen," Reynolds said.

Indeed, several neighbors said they heard eight to 10 shots fired in what is normally a tranquil neighborhood.

Area resident Steve Dick praised law enforcement for doing "what they had to do" and noted that they handled it in a way that no one in the neighborhood was hurt.

Another area resident, Ted Wallace, said it was frightening, first seeing officers in vehicles, on bicycles and on foot and then to suddenly hear gunfire -- especially with all the kids around.

But when he heard it was a cougar?

"It's unbelievable, I mean, this is Roscoe Village. It's the city of Chicago."

The animal, whose gender was unknown, appeared to have been healthy and well-fed. It will be examined to see if it has a chip that might lead authorities to the owner.

It was unclear whether the animal might be the same one spotted in North Chicago recently and, on Saturday, in Wilmette.


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